The weak economy is hurting Mac sales to professional and educational customers, but consumer sales and the iPhone and iPod touch have lifted Apple to another impressive financial quarter. Ending the, Apple reported a $1.21 billion profit on revenue of $8.16 billion, or $1.33 per diluted share (those numbers compare to a $1.05 billion profit on $7.51 billion in the year-ago quarter). Also contributing to the strong bottom line were low prices for components such as RAM, better freight and warranty costs, and better sales of high-margin products, all of which helped push Apple's gross margin to 36.4 percent (up from 32.9 percent last year).
In a conference call with analysts, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer called it Apple's "best non-holiday quarter in history." The company reported $28.9 billion in cash on hand, noting that it's focusing on "preservation of capital" with that cash (and presumably not looking at any major acquisitions).
Macs and iPods -- During the quarter ending 31-Mar-09, Apple sold 2.2 million Macs, a 3 percent decline from last year. Apple attributed the drop to professionals, such as design firms, who are likely holding off purchases to save costs until the economy improves, and to educational customers who have seen state and federal funding dry up. Although U.S. educational sales dropped 11 percent, the company is optimistic that the recently passed U.S. stimulus package will help in future quarters. The desktop refresh in early March (which updated all of Apple's desktop models) boosted sales.
As part of the discussion of Mac sales, the question of netbooks arose during the call. Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook expressed Apple's opinion of the current netbook market, saying, "When I look at what's being sold in the netbook space today, I see cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens, and just not a consumer experience and not something that we would put the Mac brand on, quite frankly."
As with his comments during the last quarter's conference call, Cook pointed out that Apple has "some interesting ideas in this space." He also pointed out that the features for which people are buying netbooks - Web browsing and email - can be accomplished with the iPhone or iPod touch.
Led by strong sales of the iPod touch, Apple racked up 11.01 million iPod sales during the quarter, a 3 percent year-over-year improvement. During the call, Oppenheimer and Cook reiterated the strength of the App Store and the iPhone OS (which also runs the iPod touch) as fueling those sales, and reminded listeners that they expected the App Store to mark its 1 billionth download sometime on Thursday. (The billionth app was indeed downloaded on Thursday, by a 13-year-old in Connecticut.) Apple claims it owns 70 percent of the market for music players in the United States.
iPhone 3G -- The star of Apple's financial results, once again, is the iPhone, with 3.8 million iPhones sold in 81 countries, a 123 percent growth over the year-ago quarter. Those numbers represent the GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) results - Apple spreads the income for the iPhone and Apple TV over their expected lifespan. Non-GAAP results push Apple's quarterly totals to a $1.66 billion profit on $9.06 billion in revenue (that's money directly received during the quarter).
Apple is also delaying revenue recognition for sales of all iPhones after 17-Mar-09, which is when it announced the iPhone OS 3.0; current iPhones will be able to upgrade to the new operating system for free when it appears later this year.
Unlike the last earnings call, this one didn't offer any incendiary questions or statements. Only one mention of Steve Jobs's health came up, and that was as an aside: Oppenheimer said, "We look forward to Steve returning at the end of June." Analysts also tried to elicit comments about possible legal skirmishes over the Palm Pre and whether it violates Apple's intellectual property (or whether Apple is infringing on Palm's patents), which prompted Cook to end the call with a generic statement about how competition is healthy for the industry and that "we think it's best that other companies invent their own stuff."